4 Things to Stop Saying Now

We interview people every day for a living. When we’re not interviewing someone we’re talking to client partners about their challenges in hiring, business trends, and sometimes just general chit chat.    This doesn’t make us experts in grammar.  Our founder, Tyson, says “ain’t” sometimes and “y’all” anytime he’s referring to a party of more than one person. Such a vast number of conversations does, however, give us an interesting perspective on linguistic trends that exist in broader groups than just friends, family, and your co-workers.

It’s common for little sayings to gain traction and become popular business cliches to a point where they run the risk of cutting into the intelligence of your point. “Laser-Focus” is a good example, though I think the blogs and magazines have effectively countered it’s heavy rotation by berating its existence.  Every single fortune 500 manager breathing has employed the term at some point over the last decade, just as every notable business magazine or blog has filled dead space with an amusing article ridiculing the overuse of the term.  But it doesn’t stop there. Here are some bits and pieces, categorized in order of urgency from the need to eliminate entirely from your personal vocabulary right now, and moving on to something you might want to start transitioning out before it’s too late:

*Warning* Spontaneous Combustion is Imminent: “You know what I’m saying?” or ” You know what I mean?”

Usually this question is used as a substitute for a more lengthy and helpful explanation, a shortcut.  The problem with shortcuts is that you likely failed to complete your thought before you attempted to confirm that it was received.  Unless you’re a 911 operator walking a plumber through heart surgery with only the use of kitchen utensils, you rarely need to confirm every thought in real-time as it’s being delivered.

Complete whatever it is you’re trying to say, and if you want to make sure it’s understood than try something less casual- something like “Does this make sense?”.  Substituting key ingredients of your message with “Know what I mean?”, is really unacceptable.  Especially in an interview.  Your number one priority is to communicate your ability to deliver the goods.   If you’re using this shortcut in business meetings and interviews than there’s a good chance that the answer is no, we don’t really know what you’re saying.

Please stop now: Really?!?

You’ve seen this episode, let’s say it’s your nephews soccer game.  Every time something happens in the game, not just big things, but when anything happens, every single person on the sideline flails their arms out, palms up, and hollers to one another ” Really?! in a feigned indignant way.  It’s understood what this means. They’re announcing that they disagree with whatever it is that’s going on.  This is becoming an absurdity.  The ref calls offsides and they stand around saying “Really?! Really Ref?! Offsides?! Really?!”. Little Johnny misses a wide open shot- “Really?! Really Johnny?!” The act replays itself over and over, all game. Even the orange wedges aren’t clear of harm’s way.

Believe it or not, it’s used professionally as well.  It’s got to stop.  Describe whatever it is that you find so repulsive that you’re in disbelief, and how you can fix it. Use your words, details are helpful.

Change this, and while you’re at it, change the circumstances: It is what it is.

No it’s not; we can change how it is. To imply that it is always what it is, well,  that’s a concession that you can’t change it, and when it’s not good, it needs to be changed.  Unless it’s already good, in which case we need to make it even better.

On it’s way to becoming a problem: So…Right?

This one is tough.  We live and work in the startup world and we all catch ourselves doing it.  Our Co-founder Jeremy does it excessively, and he has a Masters degree in how to use the English Language!

Starting an explanation with “So” and confirming it by asking if the the recipient got it by ending with “Right?”.

The word “so” at the start of a sentence is considered a discourse marker as this discussion describes.

It doesn’t hurt the viability of message, but it’s not especially useful either.  Its function is not much different than, “uh”, and “um”.  So why are incredibly bright people and well accomplished entrepreneurs using it so commonly?  It’s a cultural thing, let’s call it “startup culture”.  Cultural things rub off and grow legs and become trends. Popular trends get over used and become annoying, just ask anyone who played John Legend’s “All of Me” at their wedding only to hear it repeated at all of their friends’ weddings as well.  Lets be preemptive and try to stop this one before it gets there.

Most of these sentences that we’re starting with “So,”, we’re ending with “Right?”.  It’s not quite a full blown question, and it’s not quite a statement of fact.  It really isn’t even being used to give the recipient the chance to seek clarification, because there’s no subsequent pause nor wait-time for the recipient to confirm with a “right.” of their own.  Where it gets problematic is that it has the potential implication that this statement is unequivocally “Right”.  Anytime you’re talking at someone, instead of talking to them in an exchange of information, you’re cheating yourself out of their insight on the matter.  People are far less inclined to share their information if it’s potentially contradictory to an idea that is without question, fact in your mind.

So, we should all be proactive here and make an effort to improve our communication, especially as it pertains to interviewing and business meetings, right?